All of the talk about “reconciliation” seems to have distracted people — like a red herring — from a simple but crucial fact: If the House goes first, as now appears to be the plan, and passes the Senate health-care overhaul, the president would then have a bill in hand that had passed both houses of Congress, and — whether reconciliation subsequently succeeded or failed in the Senate — we would have Obamacare.
Reconciliation would then be like the exhibition ice skating in the Olympics after the medals have been awarded: interesting to some, but wholly irrelevant to anything that really matters.
Right. That’s why the House fencesitters are all leaning no unless the Senate figures out a way to fix Reid’s bill first. If Pelosi goes first by passing Reid’s bill, which is detested by both Blue Dogs (because of the cost and the lack of abortion language) and progressives (because of the “Cadillac” tax provisions and lack of a public option), the only assurance they have that that won’t be the final bill is Obama’s and Reid’s promise to proceed to reconciliation afterwards. But for a million different reasons, reconciliation is politically unappealing. So what’s stopping The One from signing the House bill into law, then having a sudden “change of heart” about the Senate fix?
Aside from the fact that Barack Obama is a man of his word, I mean.
Ace on why the Senate might have a “change of heart” too:
First of all, the Senate bill is the Senate bill, of course. Among themselves — and they have some loyalty to their fellow Democratic Senators; some, at least — they have collectively agreed that this is the bill they can all live with.
So, right off the jump, they’d be changing the Senate bill from one they’ve collectively approved of to one they don’t necessarily collectively approve of. They lack motivation to change much, if anything…
There’s another factor: All Democrats, liberal or moderate, want this issue over with. Over and done. They want an exit strategy. Every day they are talking about health care is a day they lose, politically. This bill is not only unpopular with independents — it’s actually pretty unpopular with the nutroots true believers, who view it as a sell-out to insurance companies and not nearly Canada-y enough for their liking…
Now, as my reader notes — given this dynamic, where most of the point of this is to take the issue off the table of active, live issues and quickly as painlessly as possible — don’t Senate Democrats have an incentive to intentionally fail on reconciliation as soon as humanly possible? To give it a half-assed college try (call it a mail-order college try), fail immediately, and just let the bill sit as it stands?
Sure do. But look: These people have to work with each other. And because the filibuster is what it is, the House is going to have to bend more often than the Senate. If Reid and Obama stab Pelosi in the back by ditching the fix after she moves heaven and earth to get 217 votes, their relationships will turn so poisonous that she’ll never get the House to bend on anything again — ever. If you think there’s gridlock now between the parties, let them try this and see what gridlock looks like within the parties. Beyond that, every last House Democrat who loses his seat in November will turn around and blame it on The One and Dingy Harry, on the moronic theory that if only they’d passed the “fixed” bill, things would have been different. That’s insane, of course — arguably, skipping reconciliation will improve the Democrats’ reelection chances by avoiding a procedure that the public despises — but the point isn’t whether it’s true or not, it’s how hard the House’s feelings will be over the betrayal. Ultimately, to pull this move, Obama would be sacrificing his ability to govern for the rest of this year in order to pass O-Care. Which, given his willingness to sacrifice control of Congress, doesn’t seem like a huge deal, but The One needs to be able to push some stuff through before 2012.
Here’s the amazing thing about this, though. Evidently there’s enough distrust of him and Reid in the House that some Democratic fencesitters think this is a real possibility. Imagine that. Either they think Obama won’t go to bat for them if Reid balks or they think he simply lacks the political capital anymore to change Reid’s mind even if he does go to bat for them. Hopenchange 2010: It’s come to this.
Update: I missed Ed’s post on this subject earlier today. Apologies to my esteemed colleague.